Perennially in Pots

Perennially in Pots

4 pots on patioSo you want to add some color and greenery to your terrace or patio. Well, you can stop by the nearest nursery or garden center this afternoon and pick up a pot filled with blooming annuals. Water them, treat them well and they will last for a while. Then, once they fade and die you will have a nice pot for more permanent plantings using perennials, succulents, ornamental grasses. Shrubs and small trees can also grow nicely in larger pots.

On this page are two ideas for patio or terrace pot gardens that last longer than a week or two: geraniums and ornamental grasses. Both types of plants are hardy enough to survive some neglect. And both types of plants need relatively less water and attention than the annuals. You can go away for the weekend knowing the plants will survive without you — even if the temperature tops 100 degrees.

varigated pelagornium geranium
Techniques to combat heat exhaustion in potted plants.

What we commonly call Geraniums are actually Pelargoniums to be botanically correct. The variegated leaf plant, shown left, produces brilliant orange blossoms in early summer.

These shrubby perennial South African natives come in an extraordinary variety – from the ordinary garden geraniums (Pelargonium x hortorum) to ivy geraniums (P. peltatum) to fabulously scented varieties, including both lemon scented (P. crispum) and peppermint scented (P. tormentosum). There is even a chocolate scented one with green and brown fuzzy leaves.

They love warm days and cool nights and do not like to have “wet feet” so don’t overwater them. The fuzzy leaf varieties need permanent shade in the desert. Geraniums are fairly undemanding – if you forget to water them for a day or so, they won’t die instantly.

In Springtime you will have pretty flowers, then attractive greenery year round. Some gardeners manage to keep their geraniums blooming over winter — all it takes is regular addition of fertilizer and a sheltered location. As a rule of thumb, the more interesting the leaves, the smaller or more ordinary the flowers are.

But beware–once you begin seeking out the scented and multi-color leaf varieties, you may find yourself on a relentless hunt for new ones. And it is never ending!

Pots Full of Gorgeous Grasses make Faux Fountains

Grass fountains in potsIn recent years ornamental grasses and other grass-like plants have grown in popularity particularly as accents and borders in rock mulch style gardens.

The pots, to the left, contain a “faux fountains” of grass rising upward with ivy cascading over the sides.

Many ornamental grasses can survive with little water beyond what falls from the sky. In pots, of course, they need supplemental water. It is probably wisest to plant one clump of ornamental grass per pot – they will grow to take up all available root space.

If you are daring, try using grasses in all the pots on your patio. Consider both color combinations and leaf size and flexibility. Grasses can look fabulous when the wind in blowing — as it does frequently in the desert.

For more about ornamental grasses click here for a full page of suggestions of ones that do well in a hot, dry desert climate. 

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